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Facts About the Philippines


The Philippines is located in Southeast Asia, on the eastern rim of the Asiatic Mediterranean. It is bounded in the west by the South China Sea; in the east by the Pacific Ocean; in the south by the Sulu and Celebes Seas; and in the north by the Bashi Channel.

Its capital and main port of entry is Manila. Cebu, which is some 562 kms. to the south of Manila, is the second largest international gateway to the country.

Land Area The Philippines is an archipelago consisting of 7,100 islands with a total land area of approximately 300,00 square kilometers (almost the size of Arizona). It has three major island groups -- Luzon in the north, Visayas in the middle and Mindanao further down in the south.
Population The current population of the Philippines is about 65 million people. Filipinos are basically of Indo-Malay racial stock, mixed with some Chinese and Spanish ancestry. They are characteristically friendly, hospitable and educated people, ever mindful of their responsibilities as workers and citizens of the country. Bred with utmost concern for their fellow citizens, the Filipino people are always seen united and strong.
Climate The country has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons -- wet and dry.
Language Filipino is the national language while English is widely spoken and extensively used in business, government and schools. There are more than 87 languages and dialects in the country.
Literacy The literacy rate of the country is about 85%.
Monetary Unit The unit of currency is the Philippine peso. The rate of the peso to the US dollar has been fluctuating between P25 to P30 to the US dollar.
Brief History of the Philippines

Early History

Historians believe the Philippines dates back to the Paleolithic age. Based on the archaeological artifacts recovered, Filipino society and culture were fairly developed prior to contacts with other countries.

Filipinos had commercial relations early on with China, Indo-China, Malaysia, India and Arab countries. Chinese silk, porcelain, jars, gold, ivory and beads were traded for wax, bird's nest, teakwood, rattan, pearls, precious stones and other marine and forest products.

Spanish Colonial Period

Ferdinand Magellan came to the Philippines on March 16, 1521 and claimed the country for the Spanish crown. A colonial government was established in Manila in 1571. Spain introduced changes in the political, social and cultural life of the people. One of these is Christianity.

In 1986, the Filipinos staged the first nationalistic revolution in Asia against the Spaniards. The 1896 Revolution was the culmination of revolts against Spanish oppression. The death by musketry of Dr. Jose Rizal who led the reform movement fueled the fires of the revolution.

One June 12, 1898, leaders of the revolution declared the country a sovereign state and proclaimed the first Republic of the Philippines. Meanwhile, Spain declared war against the United States over Cuba and was defeated. As an offshoot, the Philippines was ceded to America by Spain through the Treaty of Paris.

The American Era

Under the Americans, agriculture, commerce and trade rapidly developed. Among the changes they introduced were: the modernization of transportation and communications, the improvement of banking and currency, the American system of education, literature, language, arts and sciences.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Japan occupied the country. In 1945, Americans liberated the country and granted it independence on July 4, 1946.

Republic Proclaimed

The Republic of the Philippines was proclaimed on July 4, 1946, with Manuel Roxas as President. Massive rehabilitation and rebuilding out of the devastation brought about by the war was started.

In 1972, Martial Law was declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Political repression and economic deterioration during the Martial Law years resulted in the historic "People Power" Revolution on February 25, 1986. This led to the proclamation of Corazon C. Aquino as President of the Philippines.

Restoration of Democracy

President Aquino moved to restore all the democratic institutions in the country. A constitution, ratified on February 2, 1987, provided for a tripartite system: the Executive; the Legislative; and the Judiciary. This was the type of government before Marcos declared Martial Law and adopted a modified parliamentary government. Aquino also restored freedom of speech, press and assembly.

On June 30, 1992, Fidel Valdez Ramos became the 12th President of the Philippine Republic. President Ramos, a hero of the 1986 EDSA uprising, anchors his governance on the twin themes of people empowerment and global excellence as the engines of economic growth and social equity.

The Government Today

Presidential Form of Government

The Philippines today is a democratic and republican state with a presidential form of government as provided under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Separation of powers are ensured through checks and balances among the three branches of government: the Executive, represented by the President and his Cabinet; the Legislative, represented by a Bicameral Congress composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives; and the Judiciary, with the power of judicial review.

The executive branch sets policy directions and implements the laws of the land. The legislature, represented by a Bicameral Congress with a 24-member Senate and a 250-member House of Representatives, is the law-making body of government. Judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court and in other lower courts as established by law.

Decentralized System

The Constitution provides for a local government code which established a more responsive and accountable local government structure.

Specifically, the Philippine Local Government Code, adopted in 1991, instituted a decentralized system of governance for local government units (LGUs). This allows autonomy for the country's 76 provinces, 60 cities, 1,544 municipalities and 41,825 barangays (smallest LGU).

Under this system, the LGUs can develop their own socioeconomic base through self-initiative and internally-generated revenue schemes.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

One of the country's uniquely decentralized local governments is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The ARMM was created by law to allow the four provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao in the southern island of Mindanao to have an autonomous regional government.

As as autonomous government unit, the ARMM is authorized to initiate and attract direct foreign investments for the development and growth of its mainly Muslim population.





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